Sonia Booker‘s heart dropped when she surveyed all of the broken windows of her downtown Atlanta business, Bio Bio studio, following the riots on May 31, 2020. The peaceful demonstrations that took place to protest the violent public death of George Floyd later degenerated into vandalism, fires and general chaos.
Not long after the 12 large windows at Booker’s Bio Bio business were busted out, however, something majestic took place. Love wafted up from the riot debris and wrapped around Booker’s business like a big group hug.
An artist saw Booker on Fox 5 news station and contacted her. One artist contacted several others, and they all offered to paint portraits of heroes and sheroes on the large cardboards that were put up to cover the multiple large broken glass windows to her Bio Bio art studio. Those paintings will be displayed prominently at the virtual ribbon-cutting ceremony at Booker’s other downtown business, Studio House Atlanta, at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. The event can be viewed live on Instagram @iamsoniabooker.
In conceptualizing how Booker and the artists could spruce up the large, unsightly cardboards, they eventually championed the idea of featuring Black women with dynamic murals — particularly the likes of Breonna Taylor, Mamie Till (mother of Emmett Till), Wanda Cooper-Jones (the mother of Ahmaud Arbery) and others.
“I felt the need for Black mothers to be in the conversation and also the need for Black women’s voices to come to the table. And so … thinking about how we could use the windows to tell that type of story,” said Booker, who is the mother of a 10-year-old. “We were able to get with nine other women artists, all women artists, and we sat down and kind of brainstormed. And each one of them kind of came up with what they wanted to bring to the windows.”
The organic bond that developed between Booker and the female artists corresponds harmoniously with the meaning of Bio Bio, which is an acronym for “beauty inside out.”
“It was really a business — a beauty incubator for women, Black women in particular,” Booker said. “It was a way to bring women together to celebrate each other, to learn about new products, and to do product launches and events.”
And it was the women who came to Booker’s aid. It ended up being a cathartic experience for all of the female artists involved, who then bathed Booker’s soul in love.
“What we’ve realized through the art is that so many conversations have started to happen around how people really feel,” Booker said. “It’s just been this kind of overwhelming sense of women empowerment that came out of it, and was used in a healing format.”
Check out each of the artists’ works on the boarded-up windows of Booker’s Bio Bio studio on the next page.